Date of Award


Degree Type




First Advisor

Bleeke, Marian

Subject Headings

Leprosy in art, Jesus Christ -- Art, Art, Medieval -- Europe, Art criticism, leper, leprosy, Christ, Saint Francis, Virgin Mary, compassion, man of sorrows, stigmata, wounds, Crucifixion, flagellation, stigmatization, deposition of Christ, Pieta, blood


I will argue that the leprous body was an intermediary to the body of Christ in the minds of late medieval viewers. They could utilize this accessible body as a tool to cultivate a closer relationship with Christ. I will explore imagery of Christ and lepers created in England, Flanders, France, Germany, and Italy from 1300 through 1500 to demonstrate my argument. I will compare representations of the Flagellation of Christ and Christ as the Man of Sorrows to images of Christ healing lepers in order to show that the leprous body could be understood as a substitute for the body of the Crucified. The visual similarities of spots on the skin and bent fragmented bodies establish the conflation of these two body types. I argue that the leprous body was like the stigmaticized body because both used physical pain to facilitate a closer relationship with Christ. An analysis of images of the Stigmatization of Saint Francis and those of lepers will show that late medieval viewers could imagine reenacting the Crucifixion themselves to gain access to the body of Christ. In addition, I will analyze imagery of the Raising of Lazarus, the Deposition of Christ, and the Pieta in order to argue that late medieval viewers could reenact the Pieta with the leprous body as well to cultivate an intimate relationship with Christ based on compassion. As a result, I will demonstrate that lepers were essential members of the late medieval community as opposed to outcasts because they offered a body onto which late medieval people could project their empathy for the Crucified on a daily basis

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